Thanks to its maritime heritage, Gijón has long been a place where seafood is a natural part of the daily diet. Cimadevilla, the old fisherfolk’s quarter ensconced on a small promontory jutting into the Bay of Biscay, is now primarily given over to restaurants and bars. But northern Spain also enjoys a temperate climate, the likes of which is unseen elsewhere in the country, meaning that the cuisine in Gijón’s restaurants – and in the wider Asturias region – makes for a much wider dining experience.
Of the many fantastic seafood restaurants in Gijón, very few have live tanks the size of those at La Nueva Zamorana. This allows the chefs, led by Olegario González, to cook with the freshest ingredients possible. The tanks are filled with locally caught centollo (spider crab) and langosta (lobster). Prices are based on weight. For an extremely local dish, try the cachopo de merluza, a breaded mix of hake fillets stuffed with a house sauce.
For some authentic, down-home Asturian cooking, try El Lavaderu – where you’ll find all the main regional specialties, such as fabada, the bean-and-meat stew, or cachopo, which is effectively a meat sandwich where you have two thin beef fillets instead of bread. The filling of this carnivore’s dream is usually ham and cheese. The whole thing is then smeared in egg and breadcrumbs and fried. You’ll also find all the classic tapas items, such as garlic prawns, tortilla and patatas bravas.
Cider is an extremely popular, locally produced beverage in Asturias – so much so that it has given rise to a whole host of sidrerías (known locally as chigres), which are not too dissimilar from tapas bars elsewhere in Spain. At Tierra Astur Poniente, ceiling and light fixtures have been made with reused cider cases and bottles. There’s a very large menu here, containing everything from local dishes such as cachopo, to classic tapas. The chorizo a la sidra (cooked in cider) is a great Asturian twist on Spain’s much-loved tapa.
In general, Spain has been a little slow on the widespread uptake of vegetarian and vegan restaurants – but La Galla is a standout regardless of your dietary preferences. There’s not a bad tapas dish on the menu, with the vegan chorizo a la sidra and the croquetas de piquillo y aceitunas (red pepper and black olive croquettes) both standout options. And they go well with a glass of local cider or vermouth, too.
Tapas bars neatly sum up the general pace of life in Gijón; they enjoy a laid-back, jovial atmosphere and pair two of the best things in life, booze and food. Robi also throws in good value, which is why this spot is particularly popular with locals. Pan-Spanish classic tapas (known here as pinchos) include potato tortilla, jamón serrano and ternera, a veal steak that is served in a sauce made with the local blue cheese known as queso cabrales.
The Michelin-starred seafood restaurant, Auga (the Galician word for water), is aptly located on a pier at the marina in Gijón’s Cimadevilla, the old fishing neighbourhood. The dishes on the tasting menu, in particular, combine traditional Spanish and regional Asturian sensibilities and ingredients, such as the smoked eel and pig trotter broth, the oyster, seaweed and green apple, or the goat’s cheese soup with honey and hazelnuts – all presented with great artistic flair.
At La Galana there’s a strong sense of the past, thanks to the preservation of traditional features such the old olive (or possibly grape) press within the half-timbered ceilings, which are interspersed with fading murals. At this fantastic traditional restaurant on Plaza Mayor, next to the Town Hall, a seat on the terrace at dusk is a pleasant way to end the day. Within, the sidrería section of the restaurant is a lively place to try a few local tapas, including an Asturian cheese board.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Esme Fox.